Now that Brandan Wright has decided to head for the NBA we can take a look at what this team will look like when practice opens up next season. Right up front I will state that I think UNC should open the 2007-08 season as the #1 team in the country. They will have the talent they need at every position with more than adequate backups. I also believe that the experience of last season, the loss to Georgetown, and the continued emergence of Marcus Ginyard and Tyler Hansbrough as vocal leaders will give this team the edge it was missing last season. I fully expect the Heels will have plenty of toughness as well as being highly motivated to redeem themselves from that final six minutes of regulation in the regional final.
If I had to identify some nagging questions heading into next season I would peg those on the perimeter shooting and the defense. Wayne Ellington and Bobby Frasor must emerge as legitimate three point threats and by legitimate I mean over 40%. Frasor will hopefully be fully recovered and I am of the opinion he would fit better playing the two and being shooter rather than running the point. Secondary to those two Marcus Ginyard and Danny Green also need to show themselves as threats and Ty Lawson will benefit greatly from adding a reliable three point shot to his arsenal. In my mind Deon Thompson and Alex Stepheson playing alongside Tyler Hansbrough will make UNC a solid offensive threat on the interior and a dominant rebounding team. Thompson showed how good he could be when he got real minutes, Stepheson is up and coming. Hansbrough is Hansbrough and might be out to prove something this season in terms of being the ACC POY and one on the national stage also.
The key will be in the perimeter shooting because it opens up everything in the half court. If an opposing defense cannot zone then Lawson can penetrate and causing the other team to scramble which creates all sorts of opportunities on the offensive end. On the defensive end, the Heels need to play smarter and certain individuals just need to work on their individual defensive games. I think much of the defensive breakdown we saw this past season was related to youth and inexperience. Learning how to play defense in Roy’s system is difficult and a year more of experience for everyone should make this team much better in stopping opposing teams.
Depth wise this team will still be very strong and should have little trouble running hog wild in an effort to wear the opposing team down. Aside from the eight aforementioned players, UNC gets William Graves off redshirt and Quentin Thomas will be a senior who has an opportunity to be a huge contributor from the backup point guard position. At this point I would surmise that eight regulars would see the bulk of the minutes with Graves and Thomas chipping in at given times. I think Lawson is going to be a work horse from about mid-season on much the same way Raymond Felton was in 2005. The same will be true of Hansbrough as well.
Overall this team, even without Wright should be a near lock for San Antonio and from there it is all a matter of matchups on the final weekend of the season.
Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Ty Lawson
SG: Wayne Ellington
C: Tyler Hansbrough
SF: Marcus Ginyard
PF: Deon Thompson
PG: Quentin Thomas
SG: Bobby Frasor
C: Alex Stepheson
SF: Danny Green
PF: Williams Graves/Mike Copeland